A Hot Fairy-TaleA 1973 book by William Goldman, The Princess Bride is about the trials of true love in the Renaissance European nation of Florin. The story stars Buttercup, a simple yet incredibly beautiful farmgirl, and Westley, the farmhand she enjoys ordering around. Although they realize that they share the incredibly rare thing called "true love", fate conspires to keep them apart, as Westley is lost at sea.Five years later, Prince Humperdinck, who rules Florin in place of his elderly and doddering father, decides to celebrate the kingdom's 500th anniversary by marrying Buttercup, who is now the most beautiful woman in the world. Buttercup, knowing that the Prince is well within his rights and believing she can never love again anyway, reluctantly agrees.In a plot against the throne, Buttercup is kidnapped by the criminal trio of Vizzini (the mastermind), Fezzik (the dumb muscle) and Inigo Montoya (the world's greatest fencer, traveling to avenge his father) — but their steps are hampered by a mysterious man in black who seems determined to stop them at all costs. The subsequent adventures are madcap, iconic and brilliant.The book uses a Framing Device with the author "abridging" an older story in order to turn a very satirical (and rather cynical) adult novel by the Florinese author S. Morgenstern into the adventure tale for children that he remembers his father reading to him as a kid.It was later adapted by the author into a well-known film of the same name.The new edition published for the book's 25th anniversary included additional commentary (including some remarks on the film), and a rather confusing preview chapter from a projected sequel, Buttercup's Baby, which implicitly references Goldman's unrelated novel Control.The even newer edition for the 30th anniversary contains additional commentary about the film, as well as everything contained in the 25th anniversary edition, resulting in three forewords. One more foreword and the 'Good Parts' version will be thicker than Morgenstern's original version!
Adaptation Distillation: In-universe. Thenote non-existent original book that the story was told from was a long, boring political satire that the narrator distilled into just the good parts for his son.
Affably Evil: Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen are quite nice, even when they are torturing you or planning your murder, so much so that when Humperdinck loses his composure, it comes as a genuine shock.
Affectionate Nickname: Humperdinck calls Queen Bella "Evil Stepmother," or E.S. for short. And yes, it is an affectionate nickname; he's quite fond of her.
Affectionate Parody: Pulls off the tricky balancing act between joyful appreciation and subtle (and not so subtle) parody.
Ambiguously Gay: Prince Humperdinck is the only character not swayed by Buttercup's beauty. He just views her as a political tool to convince his country to go to war over.
Anachronism Stew: The setting is "before Europe", yet "after America" and before the invention of the word "glamour." Also, there is a mention of Australia being populated entirely by criminals, and Westley is described as wearing blue jeans. Oh, and stew is older than everything, except taxes.
Parodied: "Let me explain. (Beat) No, there is too much. Let me sum up."
Iocaine comes from Australia, as "everyone knows". note There is, of course, no such thing in reality.
Author Filibuster: Parodied; the original versionnote which does not in fact exist was apparently riddled with these, but the 'editor' didn't realize until adulthood because his father only told him 'the good bits' as a child. The editor promptly cuts pretty much all of them from his annotation, as they apparently completely bog the novel down in irrelevant minutiae and pompous tangents, but his descriptions of them are entertaining in their own right — for example, the editorial on the removal of chapter 3: 56 and a half pages of Buttercup packing her luggage.
Bad News in a Good Way: How Westley tries to present their unavoidable escape into the Fire Swamp to Buttercup. It doesn't quite work.
Best Served Cold: Inigo's quest for vengeance against the "six-fingered man" who killed his father, which began when he was eleven.
Better to Die than Be Killed: When Buttercup escapes the Sicilian Crowd's boat, swimming into shark-infested waters, Vizzini tells her that if she cries out, they'll find her and she'll die painlessly. But she resolves not to make a peep, ready to die as shark kibble rather than assassin bait.
The Big Damn Kiss: For Westley and Buttercup's first kiss, the narrative goes on at length about how, since the accidental invention of the kiss, people have been divided over what mathematical equation will best describe the perfect kiss; however, there have been five throughout history that everyone agrees "deserve full marks." The narrative then declares, "Well, this one left them all behind."
The Big Guy: Fezzik. It's been his condition since childhood; when his father tried to teach him to box in order to defend himself against his mean schoolmates, Fezzik accidentally broke his father's jaw. When he boxed for sport, he found single opponents to lack any challenge, so he would fight entire groups at a time.
Big Guy Rodeo: The Man in Black does this to Fezzik. It works, too; according to Fezzik, it's because he's got used to fighting crowds (battling gangs for local charities—that kind of thing) and is out of practice with one-on-one duels.
Inigo trying to convince Miracle Max to work cheap:
Inigo: This is noble, sir. His wife is... crippled. His children are on the brink of starvation. Miracle Max: Are you a rotten liar. Inigo: I need him to help avenge my father, murdered these twenty years. Miracle Max:Your first story was better.
When Yellin tries to resign because he can't find the rumored saboteurs from Guilder, Humperdinck (who needs a regent in Guilder after the war, only trusts Yellin and Rugen, and knows Rugen is too busy with "his stupid Pain Primer") promptly tells him what's really going on and what planted evidence he should find later.
Humperdinck: I do not accept your resignation, you are doing a capable job, there is no plot, I shall slaughter the Queen myself this very evening, you shall run Guilder for me after the war, now get back on your feet.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: Played straight, but it only works for Fezzik, and with a caveat. In his past, Fezzik used to fight people one-on-one for money. Audiences got bored of the CurbStompBattles so Fezzik started taking on more and more people, and found that if he changed his strategy a little bit, it wasn't much harder than fighting single people. During his fight with the Man in Black, Fezzik realizes that his years of fighting groups have left him confused as to how to fight one person. He adjusts his strategy, but by that point, it's too late.
Contemptible Cover: There exists a mass-market paperback edition that came out about two years after the book's first release in 1973. The cover art◊ depicts a dark-haired woman with very few clothes surrounded by skulls, snakes, tentacles and other horrifying objects. Apparently, not only did the artist not read the book beforehand, he must not have even seen a plot summary.
Cool Horse: Prince Humperdinck breeds white horses, which Fezzik steals to facilitate the heroes' escape.
Cool Mask: The Man in Black wears one as part of his Dread Pirate Roberts getup. It's just terribly comfortable!
Costume Porn: Spoofed, with the narrator describing how he cut from the "original version" entire chapters describing Buttercup's wardrobe.
Cruel Mercy: In his To the Pain speech, Westley offers to allow Humperdinck to retain his ears, so he can hear the cries of children and wailing of women at his hideous apperance.
Damsel in Distress: With two exceptions — jumping off the boat and pushing the Dread Pirate Roberts down a hill — Buttercup takes no assertive action in her own defense. This is particularly evident in the Fire Swamp where she fails to assist Westley in any way.
Dashing Hispanic: Inigo Montoya has the handsomeness and the swashbuckling down pat. His apparent failure at his life quest has left him despondent and alcoholic, however.
Empty Room Psych: The fifth level of Count Rugen's Zoo of Death, which is bereft of any of the horrific monsters of the previous two levels, just to lull invaders into a false sense of security so that they fall prey to the deadly spider in the door handle. This backfires, though, by freaking Inigo and Fezzik out so much that they smash the door down.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Humperdinck can't marry a commoner, so Buttercup gets ennobled. The story explains how she had to attend royalty school for three years, and was given the title of Princess of Hammersmith (which was part of the Florinese property but nobody ever paid attention to it).
Man in Black: What you do not smell is called Iocaine powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid and is among the more deadly poisons known to man.
Humperdinck(sniffing the vial, later): Iocaine! I'd bet my life on it.
Fractured Fairy Tale: In the Framing Story, the original work wasn't a fairy tale at all but rather a dull historical treatise, which the narrator cut down to "the good bits". This leaves plenty of room for parody among the standard fairy tale tropes.
Framing Device: The novel is framed as an abridged version of a much larger original work which the narrator had read to him as a child.
Gentle Giant: Fezzik is happiest when he's just making up rhymes with his buddy Inigo. He has no ill will towards people, but fights because it's the only thing he knows how to do well.
Get It Over With: After being defeated in a duel, Inigo asks the Man in Black to kill him quickly, so he won't have to live with the shame. The Man in Black denies this request, but does knock him unconscious.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Inigo has a scar on each cheek, given to him as a child by the "six-fingered man" for daring to defy him. Inigo returns the favor when he confronts Count Rugen at the end.
Green-Eyed Epiphany: Buttercup realizes she's in love with Westley because Countess Rugen has the visible hots for him.
Hairstyle Malfunction: A potential bride for Humperdinck visits, bringing along her hugely famous collection of hats. Unfortunately for her, a breeze blows through the castle while she's there, her hat comes off to reveal her (heretofore hidden) baldness, and Humperdinck is ready to go to war with her country because of the embarrassment he suffered seeing her.
Happily Ever After: The version that the narrator's father told him ends with a happily-ever-after. As an adult, he learns that the actual book leaves it a bit more open-ended.
Heel-Face Turn: Inigo and Fezzik are only hirelings, with no real malice in their hearts, but after the Man in Black defeats both of them, they seek him out: Fezzik to give his life purpose and Inigo because he wants help with his revenge quest.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Inigo and Fezzik seem to be this. Also, in Inigo's Back Story, this is the kind of relationship between his father, Domingo Montoya, and Domingo's best friend Yeste.
Home Sweet Home: Westley wants to settle down with Buttercup after making his fortune in the world.
Hypocritical Humor: The novel mentions removing sections of the original text that were boring and unsuitable for children... in the midst of a section of text that is boring and unsuitable for children.
Ice Queen/Defrosting Ice Queen: Buttercup goes from one to the other and back again throughout the story. She starts out cold, then defrosts when she realizes she's in love with Westley, then freezes up again after he's murdered by pirates, then defrosts again when he shows up. When Humperdinck catches them coming out of the Fire Swamp, she agrees to leave with him to save her own life, freezing up once more, but later thaws when she realizes she made a huge mistake.
The Igor: The Albino serves as Count Rugen's minion, and has the hunchbacked posture and hoarse, ragged voice down pat... until he can't keep it up and decides to talk normally.
I Gave My Word: Played straight by Inigo as Westley is trying to climb the Cliffs of Insanity. Twisted around when Prince Humperdinck promises not to hurt Westley if Buttercup goes quietly ("You (meaning Count Rugen) will do the actual tormenting; I will only spectate"), but ultimately subverted when Humperdinck mostly kills Westley himself.
I Know You Know I Know: Subverted. Vizzini's hammy "...so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me! But you would have counted on my thinking that, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you!..." speech is just stalling for time, as the Man in Black points out, trying to goad out a reaction that will betray which goblet has poison in it.
Incendiary Exponent: Since they only have two able fighters against eighty guards, the plan for Storming the Castle involves setting Fezzik on fire (he's wearing a holocaust cloak, which keeps him safe) in order to frighten them off.
Inter-Class Romance: Buttercup gets made princess of a tiny area so that Prince Humperdinck can marry her. This also puts her socially above Westley, who used to work as her father's farmhand before becoming a pirate.
Prince Humperdinck declares, "I swear it will be done," to Buttercup's demand that he send messages to the "Dread Pirate Roberts", knowing full well that Westley is in his dungeon. Count Rugen echoes it back to him immediately thereafter.
Inigo swearing on his father's soul not to attack the Man in Black until he finishes climbing, versus Yellin swearing on his mother's soul that he didn't have any gate key.
Karma Houdini: Played with regarding Prince Humperdinck. He suffers no physical harm at all in the final confrontation, but his reputation lies in ruins and his cowardice is revealed. What happens to him afterwards, however, is not stated.
King on His Deathbed: Prince Humperdinck's father is supposedly near death, and does die in Buttercup's dream sequence.
Legacy Character: The original Dread Pirate Roberts retired and passed on the name to one of his associates; this developed into a tradition of which Westley is the latest recipient. When he rescues Buttercup, he states his intention to pass on the title himself.
Marry for Love: Westley wants to marry Buttercup, and the virtue of "true love" is noised about by a lot of people, but there are practical matters involved like the lack of any money. So he goes off to seek his fortune, leaving Buttercup to fall into an Arranged Marriage.
Nice Hat: Princess Noreena of Guilder has hundreds of hats, described in the unabridged book in excruciating detail for three pages. They're all extravagant and very useful for hiding her bald head.
No Ending: The narrator points out that the escape is not the end and leaves the ultimate fate of the heroes ambiguous, with lots of Lampshade Hanging.
Nothing Is Scarier: The last level of the Zoo of Death is a long, dark hallway, entirely devoid of the horrific beasts of the other levels. The idea is to lure the intruders into a false sense of security so that they are bitten by the extremely venomous spider hidden in the doorknob at the end. Inigo finds the apparent lack of beasts and traps even more worrisome than the previous two levels, and Fezzik is so terrified of what's going on that he bursts through the door at the end — without touching the handle, squashing the spider in the process.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: While describing his experiences with and as the Dread Pirate Roberts, Westley very carefully omits any mention of the unsavory acts he must have committed as said pirate.
Plot Hole: Lampshaded repeatedly, to the point where the amount of events that don't make any practical sense other than to drive S. Morgenstern's plot becomes something of a running joke.
Plot-Powered Stamina: Fezzik's arms never get tired, which comes in handy when he has to climb the Cliffs of Insanity with three people on his back.
Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Vizzini's gambit in the battle of wits is to distract the Man in Black and switch the goblets. If the Man in Black is willing to drink from his own cup, then he's just poisoned himself. Except it doesn't work, because both goblets were poisoned.
Quicksand Sucks: Except it's not quicksand. The stuff Buttercup falls into in the book is called 'snow sand,' and is rather like baby powder in consistency. As the narrative explains, quicksand is wet and kills by drowning, while snow sand is dry and powdery and kills by suffocation.
Rags to Royalty: Buttercup is elevated from a back-country farm girl to a princess by royal decree.
Red Right Hand: Count Rugen has six fingers on his right hand, identifying him as the man who killed Inigo's father.
Remembered Too Late: Max remembers after the heroes leave that the potion will only make Westley fully fit for 40 minutes.
Resurrection Sickness: Max explains that he can definitely have the tongue and brain working, and with luck maybe a slow walk. That's about it.
Revenge: Inigo's motivation is to get vengeance on the six-fingered man who killed his father.
Rhymes on a Dime: Fezzik has a genius for spontaneous rhyming, much to Vizzini's annoyance.
Robotic Torture Device: Rugen's "Machine", which applies the principles of suction to "suck out years of a person's life".
Scarecrow Solution: "The Dread Pirate Roberts" rig that Fezzik wears to terrify the Florinese soldiers guarding the castle gate.
Scarily Competent Tracker: Prince Humperdinck can "track a hawk on a cloudy day" and demonstrates this skill by not only perfectly retracing the steps of the Man in Black's duel with Inigo, but identifying the odorless, colorless, tasteless iocane powder.
Scheherezade Gambit: Westley's relationship with the previous Dread Pirate Roberts is that he will "most likely kill him in the morning". He says this for a number of years before finally becoming fast friends.
Slave to PR: The Dread Pirate Roberts works hard to maintain his reputation as a murderous bastard. You don't have to fight as often if people surrender their valuables in order to avoid certain death.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Buttercup. Her beauty is enough to get her promoted to future queen, except the Prince threatens to kill her if she refuses. And he's planning to kill her anyway. In fact, if she were slightly less beautiful, the whole conflict wouldn't have happened.
So What Do We Do Now?: Inigo gets his revenge, but he spent all his adult life in pursuit of it. What should he do?note Westley recommends piracy, suggesting that Inigo would make a great Dread Pirate Roberts.
Sparing The Aces: The Man in Black would no sooner kill a genius than shatter a stained glass window.
Spin-Off: The Silent Gondoliers, another Goldman novel supposedly adapted from an original by S. Morgenstern.
Succession Crisis: The whole thing gets started when Prince Humperdinck learns that his father is dying and he has to marry to produce an heir. FALSE.
Sword Fight: The duel between Inigo and the Man in Black.
Tap on the Head: The Dread Pirate Roberts to Inigo (swordhilt) and Fezzik (stranglehold), Count Rugen to Westley (swordhilt), and Fezzik to the albino (fist).
Terrible Trio: Vizzini, Inigo, and Fezzik are either an example of this or ˇThree Amigos!. Because Vizzini is a cad, but Fezzik and Inigo are mostly good, but on the other hand Inigo and Fezzik both help to kidnap Buttercup and, oh never mind! Later becomes heroic when someone gets slapped with iocaine powder.
Theme Naming: Florin and Guilder are different names for the same medieval European coin. Currency with those names is still in use today.
Un Installment: The "reunion scene". When Buttercup and Westley are reunited, there's an editor's note explaining that for one reason and another the book doesn't include a detailed depiction of their reunion, but you can write in to the publisher to be sent a copy. People who did write in instead received a letter explaining that the Morgenstern estate had frowned on this, and the publisher needed to keep in good with the Morgenstern estate to avoid messing up the film rights/the US's trade ties with Florin/Goldman's chances of being allowed to "adapt" the sequel (the letter was updated from time to time with a new excuse). The then-current text of the letter was included in the 25th Anniversary Edition.
Then how do other people know who perpetrated the attack?
Unreliable Narrator: Goldman portrays himself as one in the book's foreword. He then sets out to prove it, quite successfully. He also portrays Morgenstern as an unreliable narrator. And his father (who read him the book as a child).
To wit: Narrator Goldman talks about a wife and kid he doesn't have in real life (not to mention as saying the story is actually satirical non-fiction). Narrator Morgenstern says that the story happened before Europe but after America. Narrator Father never informed his son that the story came from a historical text and he skipped over all the (lengthy) boring parts)
Villainous Breakdown: As Inigo refuses to die, and slowly gains the upper hand on Rugen in their duel, Rugen first becomes shaken, then demands that Inigo "Stop saying that!"
Wall Slump: Inigo has a famous one after Rugen stabs him... several times.
"As you wish!" as Roberts tumbles down the hillside.
Humperdinck is presented as a Jerk Ass for claiming Buttercup as a trophy wife - though he seems sincerely concerned that Guilder kidnapped her and plans to kill her - and later imprisoning Westley to get him out of the way. Then he reveals that he was behind Buttercup's abduction all along, and was trying to frame Guilder for it, and will instead murder her on the wedding night and frame Guilder for that instead.
Author Filibuster: Parodied, as in The Princess Bride, with S. Morgenstern's digressions. After a huge buildup to a fight, the conclusion is a perfunctory few sentences mixed in with several pages about the positive qualities of a certain type of tree. Goldman explains that Morgenstern had a large monetary stake involving these trees, and used the book as an opportunity to make them more popular.
It's also played with, in that Goldman's removal of these in The Princess Bride is said to be a point of contention with Morgenstern's estate about letting him 'abridge' Buttercup's Baby; apparently, the estate considers these the most important parts of the book.