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Literature / The Princess Bride

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"As a matter of fact, everything Morgenstern wrote is historically accurate; read any decent book on Florinese history."

A 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 The Sicilian Crowd (so-called because two's company and three's a crowd), consisting 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 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 supposed original!

The Princess Bride provides examples of:

  • Abridged for Children: This is the in-story reason Mr. Goldman abridged The Princess Bride. He wanted his kids to enjoy it, and there was far too much boring stuff. However, he did leave in all the torture and death (though he does warn us about what's coming at one point, telling us that this isn't Curious George Uses the Potty). Mr. Goldman's (in-story) father's Good Parts abridgment fits the trope more accurately. He tried to leave out the scary parts until he was called on it.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: The Man in Black has been building up an immunity to iocaine powder for several years.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In-universe. Thenote  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 because the only stepmothers he knew were the evil ones from fairy tales. 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.
  • The Alcoholic: Inigo pre- and post-Vizzini.
  • Altar Diplomacy: The ailing King and Queen of Florin want to marry Prince Humperdinck to the Princess of Guilder to ally with the two rival countries. Humperdinck breaks off the engagement when it turns out during a banquet that his fiancée is congenitally bald, and comments that he'd always planned to just conquer Guilder instead.
  • 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.
  • 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. In-universe William Goldman states that this drove his editor bonkers, and had to explain that S. Morgenstern was being satirical and put them in to let a savvy reader know the story's fiction.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: The Scarpia Ultimatum version. If the "Dread Pirate Roberts" does not respond to Buttercup's message within a certain time, Buttercup must go through with her marriage to Humperdinck. (The letters never go out, since Humperdinck is well aware that Westley is a prisoner in his dungeon).
  • And Show It to You: Inigo literally cuts out Rugen's heart — his idea of Laser-Guided Karma since Rugen (albeit metaphorically) cut Inigo's heart out by killing his father. Subverted in that Rugen dies of fright before Inigo can actually do it.
  • Anti-Climax: Inigo has spent years training himself in the art of the sword, learning from every master he could, completely, single-mindedly focused on hunting down his nemesis so that they can engage in a Final Battle... which barely even happens. They cross blades a couple of times, and then, before Inigo can finish cutting out Rugen's heart, the man just drops dead from fright.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Played straight with Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen; the King, however, is merely senile, and the Queen is the most beloved person in the kingdom.
  • Arranged Marriage: Expected, given the time period. Buttercup doesn't even like Humperdinck, but she's lost all hope of marrying for love.
  • As Himself: Played with. The in-universe William Goldman has a son. The real Goldman only has daughters.
  • As You Know: Iocaine comes from Australia, as "everyone knows."note 
  • Author Filibuster: Parodied; the original versionnote  was apparently riddled with these, but Goldman didn't realize this until adulthood because his father only told him 'the good bits' as a child. He promptly cuts all of them, 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 to cover Queen Bella inviting Princess Noreena to meet Prince Humperdinck, including traveling both ways, out of which fifty pages are spent describing the two of them packing and unpacking their 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.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The Zoo of Death has King Bats, which are "healthy carriers" of rabies. Fezzik is terrified of them, and justifiably so.
  • Battle of Wits: Vizzini and the Man in Black engage in a contest of wits involving poisoned wine, with a hilarious use of I Know You Know I Know.
  • Berserk Button: Buttercup presses Vizzini's by noting that he's not as smart as he thinks he is — he had no way of knowing the moon would shine at just the right moment to save her from the sharks. His response is to hit her and retort that it worked anyway.
  • 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 novel puts it at the beginning of the story, while the film puts it at the climax.
  • The Big Guy: Fezzik. It's been his condition since childhood; when his father tried to teach him to box 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.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Fezzik, Inigo, and Vizzini respectively.
  • Bits of Me Keep Passing Out: Inverted and Played for Laughs as it takes a while for Miracle Max's cure to fully take effect on Westley, and Inigo, and Fezzik have to carry him around while Storming the Castle as bits of him are "waking up" one at a time.
  • Blood Knight: Humperdinck. He loves killing, period. He has no interest in ruling the country, and would rather instigate a war instead. Heck, he's first met breaking an orangutan's back - he makes a point of hunting and killing at least one animal a day for sport.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The end of the novel explores the logical aftermath of the heroes' escape. Inigo's injury worsens, Westley relapses, and the entire army of Florin is after them. They survive, though.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: Inigo's reaction to the idea The Man in Black is a common sailor is an ironic Call-Back to Vezzini's denials.
    Inigo: A common ordinary seaman bests the great Inigo Montoya with the sword? In-con-ceiv-a-ble.
  • Borscht Belt: Max and Valerie. In-Universe William Goldman always puzzled why S. Morgenstern wrote them as such, though he notes that with a name like "Simon Morgenstern," it was Write What You Know.note 
  • The Brute: Subverted. Fezzik is really quite a nice guy. He does end up serving on a Brute Squad, though.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Vizzini actually physically threatens Fezzik, which will give one an idea of just how cowed Fezzik is by him.
  • Buy Them Off: Inigo insists that Rugen offer money and power in exchange for his life, just to see him beg.
  • Catchphrase:
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Fezzik's holocaust cloak, which he uses to obtain an ingredient for Miracle Max's pill, proves useful while Storming the Castle.
  • Cliffhanger: No, not the Cliffs of Insanity. Seems S. Morgenstern was fond of these (note Buttercup's Baby as well.)
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Rugen has spent decades developing The Machine as the perfect torture device, and is almost childishly eager to try it out on Westley. Humperdinck prefers a more direct approach.
  • Comically Serious: Goldman's son is completely Sarcasm-Blind and has zero humor, saying "Boy are you stupid" when Goldman cracks a joke and takes it seriously.
  • 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 curb-stomp battles 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.
  • Cool Horse: Prince Humperdinck breeds powerful white stallions, which Fezzik steals to facilitate the heroes' escape after the climax.
    Fezzik: "When I stumbled into the stables and found these pretty horses I thought four was how many of them there were and four was how many of us there were too, if we found the lady — hello, lady — and I thought, Why not take them along with me in case we ever run into each other. ... And I guess we did."
  • 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. It also went on for a dozen pages talking about every hat Princess Noreena owns.
  • 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 appearance.
  • 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.
    • The trope is averted in the final pages, though, when Buttercup uses sheer force of personality (and her "queen training") to cow the guards that try to stop the heroes' escape.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When he isn't professing his undying love to Buttercup, Westley is being very sarcastic with her. Especially in regards to her (lack of) intelligence.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: It's possible that the revenge plot character, especially the type who completely dedicates his life to getting revenge, has never been deconstructed as thoroughly as the book deconstructs Inigo Montoya.
    • Inigo didn't know the name of the six-fingered man and was a child when the six-fingered man (aka Count Rugen) killed his father, so he doesn't remember much about Rugen aside from the six fingers thing. Saying that someone has six fingers on their right hand isn't a great description to use when trying to find someone, so as a result, Inigo has been unable to track Rugen down for years. Hell, Inigo's boss Vizzini was hired by Prince Humperdink, and Count Rugen is Humperdink's right-hand man and co-conspirator, and yet Inigo didn't have a clue that he was so close to the target of his vengeance and likely would have Missed Him by That Much had he, Vizzini, and Fezzik completed the job as expected. (Taking this a level even further, Inigo was apparently living in Florin, the fictional country where Rugen was a nobleman and probably a major figure at court, and yet he couldn't find Rugen with just the description of "the six-fingered man.")
    • The book notes that Inigo suffers from a case of Crippling Overspecialization; he was so focused on revenge that he threw himself into becoming a Master Swordsman and barely paid any attention to learning anything else. Furthermore, Inigo's father might have been the Ultimate Blacksmith but was also a half-mad recluse before being killed. The result is that Inigo is uniquely unworldly and ignorant of a lot of life skills like basic arithmetic. He is basically at a loss for how to function in society without someone like Vizzini to think for him.
    • Inigo has been driven into becoming an alcoholic by his life in general and his inability to find Count Rugen in particular. Twenty years of first training for revenge but then being unable to find his target and all the doubts and insecurities that come with it led to Inigo dealing with his psychological stressors by drinking them away. Before Vizzini found him, Inigo was a drunken wreck, and after losing his duel with Westley, he has an epic relapse, since the loss reawakens his fears that his skills may be inadequate.
      • Speaking of his loss in the duel with Westley, when Inigo fought Westley, Inigo was fighting purely for the money and because Vizzini told him to do it. He hadn't fought anyone who could match him (even when fighting left-handed), in a long time and has been coasting on the strength of his past training. Also, he's battling his alcoholism and, odds, are, regularly drinking when not on the job. Westley, on the other hand, is fighting to save the life of his true love, his swordsmanship is as sharp and polished as it's ever going to be, he's younger, and he's not wrestling with any addictions that have side effects like dulling his reflexes and response time. All of this results in Westley being just a little bit better, enough to make the difference in the fight.
    • As he himself points out, there's no money to be made by going on an epic quest for revenge, so he has to work as a mercenary for Vizzini to survive.
  • Determinator: Inigo in his fight with Count Rugen. Stabbed repeatedly and still keeps coming.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The supposed original version of the book (by S. Morgenstern) is, in fact, nonexistent.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The entire fairy tale was supposed to be completely fictional, but later anniversary editions of the book have forwards in which William Goldman goes to Florin and Guilder to visit the exact places where events took place - which have become popular tourist spots. invoked
  • Disproportionate Retribution: It's implied that Humperdinck's main motive for wanting a war with Guilder is the outrage that Guilder would offer him a bald princess as a bride (never mind that it was Florin that sought the marriage with Guilder and not the other way around). In reality, Humperdinck just loves war and wants to pick a fight.
  • The Dragon: Count Rugen is Humperdinck's second in command and his co-conspirator. During the showdown, however, Rugen fails rather badly at his job.
  • The Dreaded: The Dread Pirate Roberts, notorious for being a terrifying scourge of the high seas who takes no prisoners.
  • Dreaming the Truth: Buttercup and the Ancient Booer, who accuses her of giving up True Love for a marriage of convenience.
  • Electric Torture: Count Rugen's Machine uses suction for torture in a manner highly analogous to the more common electric shock variant.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: The Impressive Clergyman speaks with a truly mind-boggling accent.
  • 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.
  • Epiphora: After Westley leaves Buttercup's farm to seek his fortune, he sends her frequent letters, and to make up for all the times he didn't say the actual words, he ends every sentence with "I love you."
    It is raining today and I love you. My cold is better and I love you. Say hello to Horse and I love you.
  • The Evil Prince: Humperdinck is the prince of Florin and schemes to instigate a war with neighboring Guilder so he can usurp control of both kingdoms.
  • Exact Words: When Inigo goes home to see his mentor after training for years in swordplay he asks him to evaluate if he qualifies as a master swordsman or needs more training. The mentor tells him he does not, but quickly clarifies that it's because Inigo is so far above a master that he can only be called a wizard.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: Vizzini instructs Fezzik to pick up a rock and smash The Man In Black's head in. Fezzik decides it's too unsporting, and smashes a rock right near his head, informing the Man in Black that he could have smashed his head in but wanted to give his opponent a fighting chance. The Man in Black believes him.
  • Exploited Immunity: Vizzini and the Man in Black are playing Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo; the Man in Black puts poison in both glasses, having spent years developing a tolerance to the poison being used.
  • Extra Digits: Count Rugen's six fingers.
  • Fairytale Wedding Dress: In the book, Buttercup goes through several potential wedding gowns, with the final one being so elaborate that it can't be described, only inferred. In the film, she looks like a literal angel in a snowy white, medieval Italian-style gown with scads of silver embroidery and a delicate diamond crown.
  • Fake-Hair Drama: Prince Humperdinck briefly considers marrying a princess of Guilder, but angrily rejects her after a sudden breeze blows off the hat she wears and reveals her to be bald.note 
  • Flaw Exploitation: How Vizzini can bully both Fezzik and Inigo even though either could kill him in a nanosecond — both are terrified of being alone again, and Vizzini rescued both from that.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Parodied.
    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 the narrator had read to him as a child.
  • Fresh Clue: Prince Humperdinck is an expert tracker, and manages to correctly interpret Wesley's adventures while rescuing Buttercup:
    Humperdinck: Iocane. I'd bet my life on it. And there are the princess's footprints. She is alive or was an hour ago. If she is otherwise when I find her, I shall be very put out.
  • 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 he does knock him unconscious.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: The In-Universe William Goldman allows himself to be seduced by younger, hot women and enjoys it. Subverted in that Karl becomes a hag in his eyes when she informs him that Stephen King is doing the abridgment of Buttercup's Baby.
  • 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.
  • Good Stepmother: Prince Humperdinck calls his stepmother evil because supposedly, all fairy tale stepmothers are; in reality, she's very nice and the most beloved person in the kingdom, perhaps second only to Buttercup.
  • 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 high breeze blows through the dining hall while she's there and her hat comes off to reveal her (heretofore hidden) baldness. Humperdinck decides to go to war with her country for no other reason than his embarrassment and outrage at being offered a bald princess (even though the princess visited to be examined as a potential bride on his invitation).
  • 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.
  • Henpecked Husband:
    • Buttercup's father.
    • And the fictional version of William Goldman himself.
    • Also Miracle Max, to an extent.
      Valerie: Liar! Liar! LIIIAAAAAR!
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: Both Inigo Montoya and Westley are right-handed, but have trained their left hands so much they can beat most other swordsmen even when fighting with their off-hands. This enables them to fight a left-handed duel against each other, with neither of them realizing that their opponent is only feigning to be left-handed (hence the Trope Namer for I Am Not Left-Handed.)
  • Heroic Second Wind: A gut stab and two shoulder wounds aren't enough to bring Inigo down.
  • 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.
  • Honorary Princess: Some people complained when Buttercup got engaged to Humperdinck, saying that only a Princess can get engaged to a Prince. So the court made her Princess of Hammersmith. Hammersmith is just a little lump of land at the back of the kingdom. Utterly pointless, it's unlikely she set foot in the place at any point.
  • 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.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Inigo, being a master swordsman, has taken to deliberately handicapping himself by fighting left-handed so that fights with inferior opponents won't be too easy. When the Man in Black turns out to be a stronger opponent than he expected, he reveals the ruse and switches back to using his right hand — and then the Man in Black does the same thing.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: Vizzini tells Fezzik "You were not hired for your brains!"
  • Ice Queen/Defrosting Ice Queen: Buttercup goes from one to the other and back again throughout the story. She starts 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 Westley's life, freezing up once more with despair, but later thaws when she realizes she made a huge mistake.
  • 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. Westley doesn't believe it for a second, of course.
    Westley: [to Rugen] We are men of action. Lies do not become us.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Subverted. Vizzini's hammy " 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.
  • Imposed Handicap Training: One of Inigo's sword teachers emphasized this to the point of disdaining all else. He would rant about how fights to the death are rarely, if ever, going to be held under ideal conditions and thus you have to be ready for every possible bad scenario, such as what if you're trying to fight while severely injured, if you're in the midst of terrible weather, etc. Said master ridiculed other famous master teachers for teaching as though bouts would take place in a ballroom, and when Inigo is badly wounded by Count Rugen, it's this training and experience he calls on to see himself through 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) to frighten them off.
  • Inter-Class Romance: Buttercup gets made the 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.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • 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.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: This saves Fezzik and Inigo's lives when they have to deal with a door guarded by a lethal spider in the Pit of Despair. To wit, Fezzik is so scared by this false sense of security, he simply rams the door, allowing Inigo to stomp the spider before it can bite.
  • Karma Houdini: Zig-Zagged. Prince Humperdinck suffers no physical harm at all in the final confrontation, but his reputation lies in ruins and his cowardice is revealed. Yellin does free him soon afterward, whereupon he manages to make one last bid to prevent Wesley from escaping, but thanks to a fortuitous intervention by a certain pirate crew, even that fails.
  • 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.
  • Life Isn't Fair:
    • A major theme of the book, and the subject of at least one plot interrupting Author Filibuster. As the very last lines of the book state, "Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all."
    • A similar sentiment is the line in both book and movie (though in very different contexts):
      "Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something."
  • Living Legend: The Dread Pirate Roberts is a mythical pirate. Fezzik earns a reputation as a brawler whose arms are completely tireless. Prince Humperdinck can hunt anything down. Buttercup is the (current) world's most beautiful woman. Etc. etc.
  • Look Behind You: Vizzini does this after his I Know You Know I Know filibuster to distract the Man in Black from his Poison Chalice Switcheroo.
  • Marriage of Convenience: Buttercup to Prince Humperdinck, which he argues is a practical matter of him needing an heir and a wife whose appearance he won't be embarrassed by at court (his parents' pick, the princess of Guilder, was bald), and he's willing to lift her and her family out of poverty for it. Actually, he plans to murder her and frame Guilder as a Pretext for War. She goes along with it because she believes Westley to be dead, and neither expects love out of it.
  • 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.
  • Metafictional Device: Used, lampshaded, and parodied everywhere. The "original" book doesn't actually exist as a discrete piece of literature, and serves as a prop for (in-story) Goldman to play off for additional humor.
  • Mexican Standoff: Vizzini holds Buttercup hostage at knifepoint as a hedge against the Man in Black's obvious physical superiority. They choose a battle of wits as an alternative to violence.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Inigo and Fezzik. They follow Vizzini's orders, but they can't hide the fact that they're really pretty nice guys.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Buttercup starts noticing how hot "Farm Boy's" body is. Westley later says he got ripped so that she would notice him. There's a reason the Tag Line for the book is "A Hot Fairy Tale."
  • The Napoleon: Vizzini is hilariously short and resents any mention of the fact.
  • Neutral Female: Buttercup is useless until the end, where she manages to drive off the entire Brute Squad by standing up in the saddle and yelling, "I -- am -- the -- queeeeeeeeeeeen!!!!!"note 
  • Never Bareheaded: Princess Noreena of Guilder is never seen without one of her many hats. After a sudden breeze blows one-off, it turns out she's bald.
  • Never Say That Again: Count Rugen, to Inigo's You Killed My Father Prepare to Die mantra: "Stop saying that!"
  • 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.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: The fictional author Morgenstern has more than a passing resemblance to Victor Hugo, acclaimed French Novelist known for writing door stopper novels with long tangents about French history and architecture.
    • Made more explicit in the “Buttercup’s Baby” sequence; Goldman says that Morgenstern became obsessed with Florinese foliage, writing about them extensively in his novels in an attempt to convince the country of Florin to stop cutting down trees. Replace "foliage" with "architecture," and you have the Real Life motivation for the writing of The Hunch Back Of Notre Dame, which had been left in a state of disrepair by the French when Hugo wrote his novel.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The hallway to the last level of the Zoo of Death is a short and well-lit staircase, 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 that lives under 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. Inigo notices the bewildered spider crawling around on the door as he follows Fezzik through the now doorless doorway and steps on it without realizing it was deadly.
  • Only Mostly Dead: The Trope Namer, though the film popularized it. Westley actually starts as Mostly Dead but slips to Nearly Dead.
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Humperdinck kills Westley in Rugen's Machine for having the audacity to hold Buttercup's True Love. He gets better.
  • Out-Gambitted: Vizzini counts on his ability to improvise an I Know You Know I Know speech to confuse the Man in Black and distract him from the Poison Chalice Switcheroo. He fails to anticipate that the Man in Black would not set up the scenario in the first place if he had any chance of losing.
  • Padding: invoked The reason for the "Good Parts" version. One entire chapter was devoted to the wedding preparation — with Purple Prose describing everything. It apparently makes Amanda McKittrick Ros look succinct.
  • Painting the Medium: When Humperdinck breaks the orangutan's back, it's done with a "C-R-A-C-K," with each letter descending in an arc down the page.
  • 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 a said pirate.
  • Person with the Clothing: The Man in Black.
  • Pet Rat: The goons hired by Prince Humperdinck, whose job is to clear out the Thieves' Quarter. Not to mention Vizzini and his crew.
  • Pirate: The Dread Pirate Roberts, to be precise.
  • Pistol-Whipping: The Man in Black whacks Inigo with the butt of his sword to knock him out so he can't interfere.
  • 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.
  • Postmodernism: Trying to sort out the metatextual structure of the book is enough to make your head spin. In the book, Goldman claims he first encountered the original novel (which doesn't exist) when his father read it to him as a kid. He found it terribly boring, and after reading it himself as an adult... he still found it terribly boring but with plenty of good bits so he decided to make an abridged version where he left out all the boring bits. Narrator-Goldman repeatedly interjects during the book, briefly describing what happened during the boring parts he left out. At the end of the book it suddenly stops just before the final resolution, where Goldman says he's not sure what happened next, but he says he thinks there was a happy ending.
  • Prepositional Phrase Equals Coolness: The Cliffs of Insanity, the Man in Black, the Rodents of Unusual Size, and the Zoo of Death, just to name a few.
  • Pressure Point: Vizzini uses a Vulcan Neck Pinch on Buttercup.
  • Pretext for War: Humperdinck sets up Buttercup to be so beloved of the Florinese people that her "kidnapping by agents of Guilder" will enrage them enough to support a war.
  • Prince Charmless: Humperdinck clearly believes himself to be witty, handsome, and clever. And he is indeed perfectly courteous to Buttercup, but never shows her the slightest sign of love.
  • Psychic Static: How Westley can defeat physical torture — by thinking of Buttercup. Before he's subjected to The Machine, Rugen informs him he knew that Westley was "taking his mind away." This finally unnerves Westley. The Machine gets past all of his defenses and pains him for real.
  • Psycho for Hire: Count Tyrone Rugen is unfailingly polite but has devoted his entire life to the study of pain and has invented the greatest torture machine in history.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Inigo Montoya has a scar on each cheek given to him by the man who killed his father which serves to strengthen his drive for revenge.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Inigo and Fezzik; the Albino.
  • Quicksand Sucks: Except its not quicksand. The stuff Buttercup falls into in the book is called 'snow sand,' and is like baby powder. 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: 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 ("a little lump of land attached to Lotharon's holdings").
  • Readers Are Geniuses: Invoked. The original text (which doesn't exist) was a political satire that required the reader to have several university degrees to find funny instead of boring. This is the fun part that boiled out of that.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop
  • Reclusive Artist: In-Universe example with Domingo Montoya (in Inigo's Backstory flashback), who is perfectly happy to live a humble life as a completely unknown swordsmith despite being one of the finest in Europe.
  • 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 instead of the hour he said they'd have.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: 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.
  • 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.
  • Revenge Is Sweet: Inigo Montoya tracks down and kills Count Rugen, the six-fingered man who murdered his father. While the book does not shy away from the negative side effects of fixating on a decades-long revenge quest, Inigo still finds the revenge itself quite satisfying. In the movie, finally achieving his lifelong goal does leave Inigo wondering what to do now, but Westley solves that problem by suggesting Inigo could fill the recently vacated role of Dread Pirate Roberts.
  • 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 several years before finally becoming fast friends.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Inigo sweetens his revenge by offering Rugen false hope.
    Inigo: Offer me money... Power... Anything I ask for.
    Rugen: Anything. Please.
    Inigo: I want Domingo Montoya, you son of a bitch.
  • Secret Test: When Westley rescues Buttercup, his True Love, from her kidnappers, he doesn't reveal his true identity, in the hope of finding out whether she still loves him or not.
  • Sentenced to Down Under: Vizzini references this during his Bat Deduction. He calls Australia a nation populated entirely by criminals. (Rule of Funny applies, of course: Australia wasn't known to Europeans during the Renaissance.)
  • 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 to avoid certain death.
  • Smart Jerk and Nice Moron: Vizzini is clever, but frequently verbally abuses Fezzik. On the other hand, Fezzik is by no means smart but makes up for it in sheer friendliness.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Buttercup. Her beauty is enough to get her promoted to the 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.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Roberts saying "As you wish," reveals himself to be Westley.
  • 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?
  • Sparing the Aces: The Man in Black spares Fezzik and Inigo after defeating them.
    "May my hands fall from my wrists before I kill an artist like yourself," said the Man in Black [to Inigo]. "I would as soon destroy da Vinci."
  • Speed, Smarts and Strength: The trio of baddies who kidnaps Buttercup is initially comprised of Vizzini (the mastermind, representing Smarts), Fezzik (a giant strongman, representing Strength), and Inigo (a master fencer, representing Speed).
  • Spiders Are Scary: In the Zoo of Death, there's a decoy door to the bottom level with a green handle. Said handle is the home of a green-speckled recluse, one of the most deadly spiders on Earth. That way, if an intruder comes in with the intent of freeing one of Humperdinck's prisoners, they'll suffer a fatal bite. It ends up being killed without ceremony when an impatient Fezzik breaks down the door and Inigo unknowingly steps on the startled spider.
    • Another dangerous spider in the Zoo of death is the Shrieking Tarantula, although it's only briefly mentioned by the narration.
  • Spin-Off: The Silent Gondoliers, another Goldman novel supposedly adapted from an original by S. Morgenstern.
  • Stop Saying That!: Count Rugen, verbatim, to Inigo Montoya.
  • Storming the Castle: "Think it'll work?" "It'll take a miracle."
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • When Count Rugen went to Inigo's father for a special sword, he claimed to be a Master Swordsman, and that's part of the reason why Inigo was so obsessed with becoming a greater master. However, even if Rugen wasn't simply flattering himself, by the time Inigo catches up with Rugen it's somewhere along the lines of 20 years later and Rugen has been paying more attention to forming plots with Prince Humperdink and perfecting his torture machines than honing his skills as a swordsman. Age and lack of practice mean that Rugen is completely out of his league against Inigo, and the duel between the two is rather anti-climactic, as even a badly wounded Inigo only needs to clash swords with Rugen a few times before casually overpowering Rugen.
    • After his obsessional lifelong quest for revenge is finally finished, Inigo admits that he now doesn't know what to do with the rest of his life.
    • The heroes defeat the Big Bad, decide he's Not Worth Killing, and, their goals accomplished, tie him up and ride off into the sunset. Time for a happy ending, right? Well... the trouble is that this time the Big Bad is a prince who will soon be king, and the heroes left him tied up in the middle of his own castle, so it won't take him very long to get free and be a major threat to them. In the book, Humperdink doesn't take his humiliation and defeat well, and promptly ordered his men to pursue Westley, Inigo, Fezzik, and Buttercup. The book ends on a Sequel Hook with Humperdink's men hot on the trail of the heroes, and both circumstances and their various problems and weaknesses (Inigo's wound reopens and becomes worse, the somewhat dim Fezzik takes a wrong turn, etc) leave their ability to get away in serious doubt.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In the framing story, to reassure the boy, who was not Genre Savvy.
    "She does not get eaten by the sharks at this time," my father said.
    ... but I'll tell you the truth: I was getting a little too involved and I was glad he told me. I mean, when you're a kid you don't think, Well since the book's called The Princess Bride and since we're barely into it, obviously the author's not about to make shark kibble of his leading lady.
    Subverted, in that she never does get eaten by sharks.
  • Sword Fight: The duel between Inigo and the Man in Black.
  • Take That!: In-Universe, S Morgenstern despised doctors and shilled the virtues of miracle men.
  • Tap on the Head: The Dread Pirate Roberts to Inigo (sword-hilt) and Fezzik (stranglehold), Count Rugen to Westley (sword-hilt), and Fezzik to the albino (fist).
  • Terrible Trio: Vizzini, Inigo, and Fezzik. 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.
  • Thicker Than Water
  • Threatening Shark: Buttercup tries to swim away from Vizzini, so he excites the sharks.
  • The Three Trials: Inigo, Fezzik, and Vizzini challenge the Man in Black in swordsmanship, strength, and wits, respectively.
  • Treated Worse than the Pet: Buttercup is much nicer to her horse, Horse, than she is to pretty much any other living creature - most especially Westley, the Farm Boy who cares for Horse and for her father's cows. At one point she orders Westley to stay up all night cleaning Horse's stable and polishing his saddle.
  • True Craftsman: Domingo Montoya has the highest standards for himself and the swords he makes. He could be wealthy and renowned, but he doesn't want to make swords that will only be trophies for stupid elites. He is ecstatic at the prospect of making a sword for a six-fingered master fighter - but changes his mind when the six-fingered man sees only a product to buy (at a tenth of the promised price), not a work of art. Domingo leaves his final sword - and a masterpiece of steel - to his son, Inigo.
  • Try and Follow: The Fire Swamp and the Cliffs of Insanity.
  • Un-Installment: 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 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.
  • The Unintelligible: The King. He's also Captain Obvious, which is why the Queen usually deliberately mistranslates what he's saying.
  • 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 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.
    • In later anniversary editions, Goldman talks about the scenes of what was supposed to be a fictional parody actually having happened in the past in later additions, with kids visiting locales such as the Cliffs of Insanity and the place where Inigo killed Rugen, and so forth, as tourist traps supposed by the fictional but still somehow existing countries of Guilder and Florin.
  • Values Dissonance: There's no way William Goldman was going to have Max call Inigo a "spick" in the film adaptation. invoked
  • 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.
  • Weight Woe: In an Anniversary Edition, Goldman's (fictional) son sobs when he realizes he's pretty fat. Goldman lies to him and says Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be fat, inspiring his son to become a gym rat.
  • Wham Line:
    • "As you wish!" as Roberts tumbles down the hillside.
    • Humperdinck is presented as a Jerkass 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.
  • Who Are You?: Inigo screams this at The Man in Black when the latter is showing he has better skills than even a ranked wizard at swordsmanship.note  The narrative leaves Inigo an "out" — they were largely fighting in cramped quarters; in an open space Inigo would have won easily.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Fezzik is terrified of two things: being alone, and king bats.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Utterly averted with Queen Bella, who has an excellent relationship with her stepson the Prince. Humperdinck calls her "Evil Stepmother" (E.S. for short), but only in affection.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Buttercup — though at first, she's only in the top twenty. The first couple of chapters are in fact a lengthy parody of the trope, as the narrator somehow has access to a list of "Who was the most beautiful woman in the world at any given time," and on what qualifications, pays careful attention to Buttercup's rise through the ranks, and even gives anecdotes on what happened to the previous holders of the title (in order: chocolate, smallpox, and wrinkles brought on by worrying about how to hold on to the title of "World's Most Beautiful Woman.") In the end, despite the beauticians working on her while she's Humperdinck's fiancée, it's her maturity and sadness that puts her over the top.
  • You Have Waited Long Enough: Humperdinck uses his royal rank to force Buttercup to marry him. She refuses — even under threat of execution — until he assures her that she won't have to love him.
  • Your Eyes Can Deceive You: Part of Inigo's training.

The released portion of Buttercup's Baby provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Buttercup and Westley's daughter Waverly refers to Fezzik as "Shade."
  • 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.
  • Belated Happy Ending: Buttercup's Baby resolves the open ending of The Princess Bride.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: It's Big Guy Fezzik who throws himself over an enormous cliff to save Waverly, who is Buttercup and Westley's daughter.
  • Hidden Depths: The chapter devoted to Inigo goes into his romance with a noble's daughter. Goldman invokes the trope, saying he was glad S. Morgenstern did the chapter because in the original The Princess Bride, he was a one-note You Killed My Father Revenge Machine with no other motivation. He suspects S. Morgenstern felt the same way.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Goldman finds out to his shock that real-life Inigo Montoya was actually killed, and Morgenstern had him live because he liked the character too much.
  • Their First Time: There's a description of Buttercup initiating things with Westley (pointing out "we've only kissed" and discussing that she was taught the bedroom arts by ladies of the court) that ends in a Sexy Discretion Shot. This results in them conceiving a daughter.
  • Wham Line: In the Framing Story, Goldman being told "Stephen King is doing the abridgment."