If you’ve never watched the movie The Princess Bride or read the book, the bad news is that the story below isn’t going to make a lot of sense. The good news is that you now have some extra time to find a copy of the book or movie and start watching or reading it, and you’ll enjoy that experience more than today’s Now I Know anyway. That’s not a knock on the story below, but rather on how fantastic of a story The Princess Bride is. And as good as the movie is — and it’s great! — the book is still somehow much better, so, start there. It’s worth the investment of $10 and eight to ten hours of reading.
For the 99% of you still here, if you haven’t read the book, you should, but I’m about to ruin a very tiny bit of it for you. (Very tiny.)
The Princess Bride — the movie — came into theaters in 1987. It was a pet project of director Rob Reiner’s, who first read the book in his 20s and for years after, wanted to turn it into a feature-length film. As Mental Floss recounts, “the movie only got made because Reiner had built up so much good will with movies like Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing that the studio, 20th Century Fox, offered to make any project of his choice.”
Perhaps because of Reiner’s love of the story, the movie is very true to the book, perhaps inconceivably so. Yes, there are deviations and omissions, but compared to most other novel-to-movie adaptations, The Princess Bride follows the book quite well. For example, Peter Falk’s character — the grandfather who is reading the book to his sick grandson (played by Fred Savage) — echoes the role of William Goldman, the author of the book. Throughout the novel, Goldman pretends that the novel you’re reading is actually an edited-down version originally written by a guy named S. Morgenstern. To further the ruse, Goldman spends a significant amount of words addressing the reader directly, often commenting on Morgenstern’s style. For example, chapter four is only one page long, and that page is simply Goldman telling the reader that Morgenstern outlined the preparation for Buttercup’s and Humperdink’s wedding in excruciating detail — an experience to which we are not being subjected due to Goldman’s edits.
And that brings us to the delete scene — the important one, that is. It’s an aside toward the end of chapter five.
Let me explain.
No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Westley and Buttercup had just reconnected at the hill atop the ravine, the scene cuts to Humperdink and Rugen coming across the dead Vizzini, and Humperdink correctly believes that our hero and the princess are on their way into the Fire Swamp. At that point, “Morgenstern” decides to cut directly back to Westley and Buttercup entering the Fire Swamp, much to the chagrin of his wife. (Yes, the fake Morgernstern also addresses the reader directly.) Mrs. Morgernstern wanted her husband to tell the story of the obviously romantic reunion between Westley and Buttercup, but the author that didn’t exist decided not to. Goldman, at this point, interjects.
Goldman tells us that he agrees with Mrs. Morgernstern and that there really should have been a reunion scene. And, Goldman further informs us, Goldman has written one — but his publisher won’t let him insert it into the book because he’s supposed to be editing the story, not penning some sort of weird fan fiction. So Goldman and his publisher come to an agreement: if a reader wants to read Goldman’s reunion story — it’s three pages long — the reader can send in a postcard with that request to the publisher. Don’t believe me? As you wish:
This, of course, is a joke. But some people — perhaps those who lack a dizzying intellect, or perhaps those who thought Goldman was blaving about writing the scene — wrote in. According to the Los Angeles Times, it was a good number of people, too; there were about 100 per week to the publisher of the paperback when it first came out in 1974, and about four to five times that after the movie hit nearly 15 years later. And to their amusement — or, perhaps, frustration — the publisher was ready to reply. Not with a reunion scene, not with a peanut, but with an apology — one in which Goldman extends the joke. The Times further explains:
What can be told is that the first version of Goldman’s response to his readers was a three-page story about a lawsuit between Mr. Shog, a representative from the estate of S. Morgenstern, and publisher William Jovanovich preventing the publication of the reunion scene until early 1978.
This, according to Goldman, spawned a second generation of letters from people who had waited patiently for the lawsuit to be over. So in 1978, Goldman added a postscript explaining that there was a typo, and people would have to wait until 1987 for the scene.
In May of this year , a further postscript was added that explains that all Florinese-American litigation has been put on hold as a result of Florin having become America’s leading supplier of cadminium, which, according to Goldman, NASA is “panting for.”
The full letters can be read here (scroll down a bit), if you’re interested. One day, perhaps NASA and Florin will allow for the scene to be released, but really, it would take a miracle.
From the Archives: Worthy of Gryffindor: A very touching easter egg in the Harry Potter world.
Take the Quiz: Finish the quote from The Princess Bride. You need the exact wording, making this much harder than it seems, and it doesn’t have my favorite quote either. (“We are both men of action; lies do not become us.”) But it’s still a good quiz.
Related: “The Princess Bride,” the mass-market paperback. The reunion scene isn’t on page 194-195. Five stars on an million reviews, or something like that.