The Princess Bride is a book by William Golding, which has been adapted into a rather more famous movie of the same name. It’s most commonly seen as a parody of various fairy tale tropes. To be frank, I dislike this book, and the movie too. On paper, this book should have everything I like. Fantasy! Adventure! Romance! Princesses! Sword-fighting! But for some reason, on this particular occasion, none of this clicked with me.
Perhaps it’s because I never watched the movie as a child? The way that if something is overhyped before I read it, I tend to like it less? Or my never-ending love of fairy tales means I don’t appreciate parodies of them? It’s like the exception that proves the rule that I’ll like anything based on fairy tales! In fact, a common problem I find with parodies is that they have to use the very worst ideas of their source material out of necessity.
There’s a really weird framing device used that the author is abridging a book originally written by S. Morgenstern. This has the side effect of making the author seem presumptuous, knowing more about what parts readers want to read then they do. And yes, I know that it wasn’t really an abridging, but still. It also means he calls his book a classic before it was even published. Sometimes I found myself wanting to know more about the parts that had been left out. Every time he makes a cut, he’ll mention what happened in the cut, and his irrelevant tangents about them can go on for pages. This can interrupt the flow of the story, if you are excited to keep reading about Buttercup and Westley. Another thing is the side notes about when this book took place, to make its time period deliberately ambiguous. (This was after… this was before…) I realise that they were probably supposed to be humorous, but they just ended up annoying me after about the 5th one, although they thankfully eased off after that.
The only prominent female character in the entire book is Buttercup, and the narrative goes out of it’s to highlight her stupidity. She is never given any personality beyond how beautiful she is. And it disappoints me, because she could have – she’s mentioned to have liked horse-riding, for one thing. All this goes when her true love leaves her and she spends the rest of her time trying to make herself look prettier. She even gets some parts where she shines, but they are few and far between. There is one point where she is inactive for so many pages it’s easy to forget she’s actually in the scene.
Westley, on the other hand, has personality, but it’s not a good one. To give you an idea, at one point he hits Buttercup for lying to him, even though she hadn’t. He is unfairly critical of her decision to have married the Prince in his absence, despite the fact that not only did she believe he was dead, the Prince threatened to kill her if she didn’t. He treats Buttercup so awfully throughout the book that I had to wonder how she was still in love with him. But I guess that was the point, to show how unrealistic love in fiction can be? You know, if I could read it as a parody of Twilight rather than a parody of fairy tales, I might like it more.
It’s meant to be a parody of fairy tale stories, but you can parody something without falling into the same sexist tropes that are present in the source material. I’d go as far to say that most original fairy tale heroines had more personality then Buttercup! And I find even the early Disney romances much more believable. Also, surely a Princess who rescues herself would be more of a parody?
Okay, let’s talk about parts of the book I did like. Inigo Montoya, and… that’s it. Oh, and the bit where Buttercup stands up and says “I AM THE QUEEN!” was pretty cool.
And you know what? I didn’t like this book, other people do, and that’s okay, because people can disagree. It’s our differences that makes us unique. I would rather live in a world where we can think independently and like different things, because that is how people find out what they actually do like.