The Princess Bride

novel by William Goldman

The Princess Bride is a 1973 novel by William Goldman claiming to be an abridgment of a non-existent story written by S. Morgenstern. Framed as a story within a story, it is a tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princess, giants, miracles, fencing, true love, and rodents of unusual size.

See also:
The Princess Bride (1987 film based on the book)


  • This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.
"Has it got any sports in it?"
"Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."
  • People don't remember me. Really. It's not a paranoid thing; I just have this habit of slipping through memories. It doesn't bother me all that much, except I guess that's a lie; it does. For some reason, I test very high on forgettability.
  • Even today, that's how I summon back my father when the need arises. Slumped and squinting and halting over words, giving me Morgenstern's masterpiece as best he could. The Princess Bride belonged to my father.
  • But my father only read me the action stuff, the good parts. He never bothered with the serious side at all.
  • Anyway, here's the "good parts" version. S. Morgenstern wrote it. And my father read it to me. And now I give it to you. What you do with it will be of more than passing interest to us all.

One: The Bride

  • Prince Humperdinck actually ran things. If there had been a Europe, he would have been the most powerful man in it. Even as it was, nobody within a thousand miles wanted to mess with him.
  • Flailing and thrashing, Buttercup wept and tossed and paced and wept some more, and there have been three great cases of jealousy since David of Galilee was first afflicted with the emotion when he could no longer stand the fact that his neighbor Saul's cactus outshone his own. (Originally, jealousy pertained solely to plants, other people's cactus or ginkgoes, or later, when there was grass, grass, which is why, even to this day, we say that someone is green with jealousy.) Buttercup's case rated a close fourth on the all-time list.
  • "Don't you understand anything that's going on?
    Buttercup shook her head.
    Westley shook his too. "You never have been the brightest, I guess."
    "Do you love me, Westley? Is that it?"
    He couldn't believe it. "Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches! If your love were -"
    "I don't understand that first one yet," Buttercup interrupted. She was starting to get very excited now. "Let me get this straight. Are you saying my love is a grain of sand and yours is this other thing? Images confuse me so - is this universal business of yours bigger than my sand? Help me, Westley. I have the feeling we're on the verge of something just terribly important."
  • "I've been saying it so long to you, you just wouldn't listen. Every time you said 'Farm Boy do this' you thought I was answering 'As you wish' but that's only because you were hearing wrong. 'I love you' was what it was, but you never heard."
  • There have been five great kisses since 1642 B.C. ... (before then couples hooked thumbs.) And the precise rating of kisses is a terribly difficult thing, often leading to great controversy...Well, this one left them all behind.

Two: The Groom

  • Hunting was [Humperdinck's] love.
    Once he was determined, once he had focused on an object, the Prince was relentless. He never tired, never wavered, neither ate nor slept. It was death chess and he was international grand master.
  • "Your father has had his annual physical," the Count said. "I have the report."
    "Your father is dying."
    "Drat!" said the Prince. "That means I shall have to get married."

Three: The Courtship

  • [Buttercup] "I'll never love you."
    [Humperdinck] "I wouldn't want it if I had it."
    "Then by all means let us marry."

Four: The Preparations

  • I didn't even know this chapter existed until I began the 'good parts' version. All my father used to say at this point was, "What with one thing and another, three years passed," and then he'd explain how the day came when Buttercup was officially introduced to the world as the coming queen, and how the Great Square of Florin City was filled as never before, awaiting her introduction, and by then he was into the terrific business dealing with the kidnapping.
    Would you believe that in the original Morgenstern this was the longest chapter in the book?
  • But from a narrative point of view, in 105 pages nothing happens. Except this: 'What with one thing and another, three years passed.'

Five: The Announcement

  • [Princess Buttercup is walking among her people for the first time.]
But -
- in the farthest corner of the Great Square -
- in the highest building in the land -
- deep in the deepest shadow -
- the man in black stood waiting.
  • "The Prince and I have never from the beginning lied to each other. He knows I do not love him."
    "Are not capable of love is what you mean."
    "I'm very capable of love," Buttercup said.
    "Hold your tongue, I think."
    "I have loved more deeply than a killer like you can possibly imagine."
    He slapped her.
  • "I loved once," Buttercup said after a moment. "It worked out badly."
    "Another rich man? Yes, and he left you for a richer woman."
    "No. Poor. Poor and it killed him."
    "Were you sorry? Did you feel pain? Admit that you felt nothing -"
    "You mock my pain! I died that day."
  • While he was watching the ships, Buttercup shoved him with all her strength remaining...down went the man in black..." And you can die too for all I care!" she said, and then she turned away.
    Words followed her. Whispered from afar, weak and warm and familiar. ""
  • "The battle of wits has begun," said the man in black. "It ends when you decide and we drink and find out who is right and who is dead."
  • "Fool!" cried the hunchback. "You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia,' but only slightly less well known is this: 'Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'"
    He was quite cheery until the iocane powder took effect.

Six: The Festivities

  • "It comes to this," Buttercup began. "In the Fire Swamp I made the worst mistake in all the world. I love Westley. I always have. It seems I always will...I mean this now too: if you say I must marry you in fifty days I will be dead by morning."
  • But Westley, as the lever moved, took his brain away, and when the Machine began, Westley was stroking her autumn-coloured hair and touching her skin of wintry cream and - and - and then his world exploded... In humiliation, and suffering, and frustration, and anger, and anguish so great it was dizzying, Westley cried like a baby.
    "Interesting," said the Count, and carefully noted it down.

Seven: The Wedding

  • "You see," Max explained as he pumped, "there's different kinds of dead: there's sort of dead, mostly dead, and all dead. This fella here, he's only sort of dead, which means there's still a memory inside, there's still bits of brain. You apply a little pressure here, a little more there, sometimes you get results."

Eight: Honeymoon

  • "Hello," he said. "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
  • Prince Humperdinck dove for his weapons, and a sword flashed in his thick hands. "To the death," he said, advancing.
    Westley gave a soft shake of his head. "No," he corrected. "To the pain."
    It was an odd phrase, and for the moment it brought the Prince up short. "I don’t think I quite understand that."
  • "I’m going to tell you something once and then whether you die is strictly up to you," Westley said, lying pleasantly on the bed. "What I’m going to tell you is this: drop your sword, and if you do, then I will leave with this baggage here"—he glanced at Buttercup—"and you will be tied up but not fatally, and will be free to go about your business. And if you choose to fight, well, then, we will not both leave alive."
    "You are only alive now because you said 'to the pain.' I want that phrase explained."
    "My pleasure. To the pain means this: if we duel and you win, death for me. If we duel and I win, life for you. But life on my terms. The first thing you lose will be your feet. Below the ankle. You will have stumps available to use within six months. Then your hands, at the wrists. They heal somewhat quicker. Five months is a fair average. Next your nose. No smell of dawn for you. Followed by your tongue. Deeply cut away. Not even a stump left. And then your left eye—"
    "And then my right eye, and then my ears, and shall we get on with it?" the Prince said.
    "Wrong!" Westley’s voice rang across the room. "Your ears you keep, so that every shriek of every child shall be yours to cherish—every babe that weeps in fear at your approach, every woman that cries 'Dear God, what is that thing?' will reverberate forever with your perfect ears. That is what 'to the pain' means. It means that I leave you in anguish, in humiliation, in freakish misery until you can stand it no more; so there you have it, pig, there you know, you miserable vomitous mass, and I say this now, and live or die, it’s up to you: Drop your sword!"
    The sword crashed to the floor.
  • "Doomed, madam?"
    "To be together. Until one of us dies."
    "I've done that already, and I haven't the slightest intention of ever doing it again." Westley said.
    Buttercup looked at him. "Don't we sort of have to sometime?"
    "Not if we promise to outlive each other, and I make that promise now."
    Buttercup looked at him. "Oh my Westley, so do I."
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