The Princess Bride is a 1973 fantasy romance novel written by William Goldman. The book combines elements of comedy, adventure, fantasy, romantic love, romance, and fairy tale. It is presented as an abridgment (or "the good parts version") of a longer work by S. Morgenstern, and Goldman's "commentary" asides are constant throughout. It was originally published in the United States by Harcourt Brace, then later by Random House, while in the United Kingdom, it was later published by Bloomsbury.
The book was adapted into a 1987 feature film, whose screenplay was written by Goldman himself, and which was directed by Rob Reiner. Adam Guettel attempted to adapt it into a musical.
William Goldman said, "I've gotten more responses on The Princess Bride than on everything else I've done put together—all kinds of strange outpouring letters. Something in The Princess Bride affects people."
A segment of the book was published as "Duel Scene (From The Princess Bride)" in the anthology The Best of All Possible Worlds (1980), which was edited by Spider Robinson. In 2015, a collection of essays on the novel and the film adaptation was published entitled The Princess Bride and Philosophy.
In a Renaissance-era world, a beautiful young woman named Buttercup lives on a farm in the country of Florin. She delights in verbally abusing the farm hand Westley, whom she addresses as "farm boy", by demanding that he perform chores for her. Westley's response to her demands is always "As you wish." She eventually realizes that what he is really saying is, "I love you." After Buttercup realizes, as well, that she truly and strongly loves him and confesses her mutually strong romantic feelings, Westley leaves to seek his fortune, so they can marry. Buttercup later receives word that the Dread Pirate Roberts, who is notorious for killing all those whose vessels he boards, attacked his ship at sea. Believing Westley dead, Buttercup sinks into abject despair, declaring, "I will never love again." Some time later, she reluctantly agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck, heir to the throne of Florin, due to a law allowing the prince to choose any unmarried woman as his bride, though she makes it clear that she does not love him.
Before the wedding, a trio of outlaws—the Sicilian criminal genius Vizzini, the Spanish fencing master Inigo Montoya, and the enormous and mighty Turkish wrestler Fezzik—kidnap Buttercup. A masked man in black follows them across the sea and up the Cliffs of Insanity, whereupon Vizzini orders Inigo to stop him. Before the man in black reaches the top of the cliff, a flashback of Inigo's past in the novel reveals that he is seeking revenge on a six-fingered man who killed his father. When the man in black arrives, Inigo arranges a fair fight, allowing his opponent to rest before the duel. The man in black wins the duel, but out of respect, he leaves the Spaniard alive. Stunned, Vizzini orders Fezzik to kill the man in black. Another flashback occurs detailing Fezzik's history of reluctant fighting matches since childhood. His conscience compelling him, Fezzik throws a rock as a warning and challenges the man to a wrestling match. The man in black accepts the challenge and chokes Fezzik until the giant blacks out. He then catches up with Vizzini and proposes a battle of wits, guessing which cup of wine is poisoned with iocaine powder. They drink, and the man in black reveals that both cups were poisoned, but he had previously cultivated an immunity to iocaine powder. Vizzini dies.
With Prince Humperdinck's rescue party in hot pursuit, the man in black flees with Buttercup. He taunts Buttercup, claiming that women cannot be trusted and that she must have felt nothing when her true love and sweetheart had died. Enraged, she shoves him into a gorge, yelling, "You can die, too, for all I care!", only to hear him call, "As you wish!" from the bottom of the ravine. She realizes he is none other than her dearly beloved Westley, and follows him down into the gorge, to find him battered but largely unhurt. While traveling through the Fire Swamp to evade Humperdinck's party, Westley tells Buttercup that the Dread Pirate Roberts did attack his ship, but kept him alive after he explained the depths of his love for her. Westley became the Dread Pirate Roberts' valet, and later his friend. Over the course of four years, Westley learned how to fence, fight, and sail. Eventually, Roberts secretly passed his name, captaincy, and ship to Westley, just as his predecessor had done. After facing many trying ordeals such as Snow Sand and Rodents of Unusual Size, Westley and Buttercup successfully navigate the Fire Swamp, whereupon they are captured by Prince Humperdinck and his cruel six-fingered assistant, Count Tyrone Rugen. Buttercup negotiates for Westley's release and returns with Humperdinck to the palace to await their wedding. Rugen follows Humperdinck's secret instructions to not release Westley, but to take him to the fifth level of his underground hunting arena, the "Zoo of Death". Here, Rugen gravely tortures and weakens Westley with his horribly painful life-sucking invention, The Machine, to obtain first-hand information for completing his definitive book on pain along with appeasing Humperdinck's annoyance that Buttercup does and always will prefer Westley to him.
Meanwhile, Buttercup has several nightmares regarding her marriage to the prince. She expresses her unhappiness to Humperdinck, who proposes a deal wherein he will send out four ships to locate Westley, but if they fail to find him, Buttercup will marry him. The novel reveals that, to start a war with the neighboring country of Guilder, Humperdinck himself had arranged Buttercup's kidnapping and murder, but that he now believes that Buttercup dying on her wedding night will inspire his subjects to war even more effectively.
On the day of the wedding, Inigo meets again with Fezzik, who tells him that Count Rugen is the six-fingered man who killed his father. Knowing that Vizzini is dead, they seek out the man in black hoping that, if he could outsmart Vizzini, his wits will help them plan a successful attack on the castle to find and kill Count Rugen. Buttercup learns that Humperdinck never sent any ships, and taunts him with her enduring love for Westley. Enraged, Humperdinck tortures Westley to death via The Machine at its maximum setting. Westley's death screams echo across the land, drawing Inigo and Fezzik to the Zoo of Death and down through its many dangerous levels. Finding Westley's body, they enlist the help of the King of Florin's former "miracle man", a magician named Miracle Max who was fired by Humperdinck. Max pronounces Westley to be merely "mostly dead", and returns him to life (out of a desire to get back at Humperdinck), though Westley remains partially paralyzed and weak.
Westley devises a successful plan to invade the castle during the wedding, and the commotion caused by this prompts Humperdinck to cut the wedding short. Buttercup decides to commit suicide when she reaches the honeymoon suite. Inigo pursues Rugen through the castle, and, reciting aloud his long-rehearsed oath of vengeance ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.") throughout the duel, kills him in a sword fight. Westley reaches Buttercup before she commits suicide. Still partially paralyzed, he bluffs his way out of a sword fight with Humperdinck, who shows himself to be a coward. Instead of killing his rival, Westley decides to leave him alive for a long, miserable life with his obvious cowardice as his only companion. The party then rides off into the sunset on four of the prince's purebred white horses which Fezzik had conveniently discovered. The story ends with a series of mishaps and the prince's men closing in, but the author indicates that he believes that the group got away.
The Princess Bride is presented as Goldman's abridgment of an older version by "S. Morgenstern", which was originally a satire of the excesses of European royalty. The book, in fact, is entirely Goldman's work. Morgenstern and the "original version" are fictional and used as a literary device.
Goldman carried the joke further by publishing another book called The Silent Gondoliers (explaining why the gondoliers of Venice no longer sing to their passengers) under S. Morgenstern's name.
Goldman's personal life, as described in the introduction and commentary in the novel, is also fictional. In The Princess Bride, Goldman claims to have one son with his wife, a psychiatrist. In reality, Goldman has two daughters, and his wife is not a psychiatrist. The commentary is extensive, continuing through the text until the end.
The book's actual roots are in stories Goldman told to his daughters, one of whom had requested a story about "princesses" and the other "brides". Goldman describes the earliest character names from the "kid's saga" as "silly names: Buttercup, Humperdinck". The countries are both named after coins. The florin was originally an Italian gold coin minted in Florence, and later the name of various currencies and denominations. The guilder was originally a Dutch gold coin, and later the name of various currencies used mainly in the Netherlands and its territories. The two names are often interchangeable.
Goldman says he wrote the first chapter about Buttercup which ran for about 20 pages. Then, he wrote the second chapter, "The Groom", about the man she was going to marry; Goldman only managed to write four pages before running dry. Then he got the idea to write an abridged novel:
And when that idea hit, everything changed. Tennessee Williams says there are three or four days when you are writing a play that the piece opens itself to you, and the good parts of the play are all from those days. Well, The Princess Bride opened itself to me. I never had a writing experience like it. I went back and wrote the chapter about Bill Goldman being at the Beverly Hills Hotel and it all just came out. I never felt as strongly connected emotionally to any writing of mine in my life. It was totally new and satisfying and it came as such a contrast to the world I had been doing in the films that I wanted to be a novelist again.
Goldman says he was particularly moved writing the scene where Westley dies.
In the novel's commentary, Goldman writes that he added nothing to the "original" Morgenstern text, although he comments that he did write one original scene, a loving reunion between Buttercup and Westley, but claimed that his publisher objected to this addition. He invited any reader who wanted to read the "Reunion Scene" to write to the publisher (formerly Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; now Random House) and request a copy. Many readers wrote in to the publisher and did receive a letter, but instead of an extra scene, the letter detailed the (obviously fictitious) legal problems that Goldman and his publishers encountered with the Morgenstern estate and its lawyer, Kermit Shog. This letter was revised and updated periodically; the 1987 revision mentioned the movie, while the 25th Anniversary Edition publishes the letter with an addendum about Kermit's lawyer granddaughter Carly. The 30th Anniversary Edition has a footnote at this point saying that one can now find the three pages of the reunion scene online. However, if one goes to the linked website, all they send via email is the text of the three letters.
The epilogue to some later editions of the novel, notably the 25th anniversary edition, mentions a sequel, Buttercup's Baby, that was "having trouble getting published because of legal difficulties with S. Morgenstern's estate". Later editions actually reprint Goldman's "sample chapter".
The chapter consists of a disjointed assemblage of stories about the quartet's escape to "One Tree Island", and the eventual kidnapping of Waverly (Westley and Buttercup's daughter) by a skinless-faced "madman" who eventually throws her off a mountainside. The chapter ends with Fezzik, Waverly's appointed babysitter, leaping off the mountain to save her, and then cradling her to preserve her from the impact that seems certain to spell at least Fezzik's doom. Also noteworthy is a flashback to Inigo's past, his training as a swordsman, and his one-time romantic love interest.
The 30th anniversary edition of The Princess Bride included hints to the sequel's plot, and a promise to have the full version completed before a 50th anniversary edition (2023).
In a January 2007 interview, Goldman admitted that he is having difficulty coming up with ideas for the story:
MPM: I hear you're working on a sequel to The Princess Bride called Buttercup's Baby.
William Goldman: I desperately want to write it, and I sit there and nothing happens and I get pissed at myself. I got lucky with The Princess Bride the first time, and I'd love to get lucky again.
Goldman partnered with Adam Guettel to create a musical version of the story with Goldman writing the book and Guettel writing the music, but the two parted ways on the project when Goldman demanded 75% of the author's royalties, though Guettel was writing both the music and the lyrics. Guettel's score was nearly complete, but it is unlikely to be heard beyond an orchestral suite performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 2006.
In November 2013, Disney Theatrical announced that it will be staging a new stage musical version, based on the novel and film screenplay.
In 2008, Toy Vault, Inc. announced it was working on a Princess Bride–based card game due for release in the second quarter of 2008. It also announced that it is working on a board game, the second ever produced for this movie, after a simple board game included with some VHS releases.
Also in 2008, the production company Worldwide Biggies released a computer game, The Princess Bride Game. Several actors from the movie provided voices for their video game counterparts, including Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, and Robin Wright Penn as Buttercup.
Sierra Online parodied the title of the novel in their computer game King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride.
In 2014, Game Salute gained the rights to publish tabletop games based on the Princess Bride and has a series of board and card games releasing in 2014.